Thursday, December 26, 2013



Canacee and the Falcon by Warwick Goble

Canacee (KAN-uh-see) is a beautiful princess in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, and in the Squire's Tale in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. She is the daughter of King Cambyuskan and Queen Elpheta of Sarai in Tartary, and Chaucer leaves her story unfinished. Apparently the squire wants to tell that her own brother has been fighting in tournaments to win his sister's hand, possibly a nod to Heroides XI by Ovid. Some critics suggest it is not in fact her brother, but a knight with the same name as her brother, and that this would have been mentioned had Chaucer finished the story, and that the shock and confusion was intentional. In her story, Canacee is given gifts by an Arabian king's messenger - a magical mirror, magical ring, and the gift of herbal wisdom. In The Faerie Queene, Canacee is one of four characters that represent friendship, the other three being her brother, sister in law and husband. Canacee's husband here is not her brother, yet his name, Cambell, has been borrowed from Chaucer's character Cambalo. The two stories have a lot of similarities, and in both there is a play on names.

Although it is not certain, Canacee's name may derive from or be influenced by Cauda Ceti, a star in Chaucer's time in the constellation Pisces. Cauda is Latin meaning "tail," while Ceti refers to any large ocean animal, such as a whale or dolphin. An adaptation of the meaning is "whale's tail," although it originally meant the tail star of the whale constellation, since the constellation Cetus is known as "The Whale." Another possibility is a Greek name, Canace, presumably pronounced the same way, which means "child of the wind" according to an entry in Baby Name Encyclopedia: The Perfect Baby Name Adviser by Sylvie Nicole. Canacee is pronounced KAN-uh-see. It is not, and has not to my knowledge, been used as a baby name. A potential nickname is Cacee (Casey).

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